Digital forensics is a branch of forensic science that is used to recover and analyze data stored on digital devices. Although the relatively new field of science was founded to investigate data from personal computers, it now encompasses data stored on any digital device and is a critical component of cybercrime investigations. Digital forensics is critical in determining attribution, identifying data leaks within an organization, and analyzing the damage caused by a data breach.
Digital forensics professionals play a critical role in preventing cybercrime. Digital forensics can thwart hackers from breaching secure data, resulting in negative consequences for organizations, employees, and the general public. Digital forensics is also critical for recovering lost or stolen data, tracing the source of a cyberattack, and producing detailed reports on cybercrime for the criminal justice system. Computer forensics, forensic data analysis, mobile device forensics, and network forensics are all subsets of digital forensics.
How does digital forensics contribute to the success of investigations?
Regardless of the device on which the data is stored, the digital forensics process is generally divided into four stages. To begin, digital evidence is gathered. This typically entails seizing the investigation’s devices, such as computers/laptops, phones, and hard drives. Often, storage media is copied during the seizure in order to preserve the data for future reference.
Following data collection, the next step is typically data examination, which can be accomplished using a variety of tools and techniques. The examination phase can be divided into three phases: preparation, extraction, and identification. This final examination phase step entails determining which data is pertinent to the case.
The examination stage is followed by the analysis stage. The data that has been gathered and determined to be relevant is analyzed in this phase of the investigation to either prove or disprove the case that is being built. Individuals analyzing data frequently seek answers to questions such as who created the data? Who was responsible for data editing? How did the data come to be? When were the records created?
After analysis, the investigation’s findings are synthesized and reported. Producing such reports is a critical skill in digital forensics because it allows for the distillation of large amounts of analytical data into key takeaways.